Jesse Marsch's first season as head coach at RB Leipzig has not gone well.
It began when Leipzig lost three of its first four games in the Bundesliga, where it finished second last season. Its league form has improved since then, but even with two wins and two ties in its last four games, Leipzig is tied for eighth place, five points below the top four spots.
Worse, Leipzig has lost all three games in the UEFA Champions League, where it was a semifinalist just 14 months ago.
The 3-0 loss at 2021 runner-up Manchester City was not unexpected, but Leipzig's season hit a low when it blew an early lead against Belgian champion Club Brugge and lost, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena.
Despite all the problems, Marsch, who replaced Julian Nagelsmann after the young German coach was lured away by Bayern Munich, has received the backing of both management and his players. It appeared to be only a matter of time before RB Leipzig started to find the rhythm that made it one of the most feared teams in Europe for its pressing game.
On Tuesday, RB Leipzig harried Paris St. Germain at the Parc des Princes. After trailing on a Kylian Mbappe goal in the 9th minute, Leipzig recovered and took the lead, 2-1, in the 57th minute.
But for PSG keeper Keylor Navas, recovered from the injury that forced him to be substituted at halftime of the USA-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier six days earlier, Leipzig could have already been ahead by several goals before Mbappe's opener.
Then disaster hit in the 67th minute. American Tyler Adams, under pressure from Italian midfielder Marco Verratti, played a back pass that disastrously put Mbappe in on goal. Mbappe faked as he was going to shoot but laid the ball off to Lionel Messi, who scored to tie the score.
Seven minutes later, Mbappe was fouled by Mohamed Simakan, and Messi converted the resulting penalty with a Panenka to give PSG a 3-2 win. (In stoppage time, PSG was awarded a second penalty kick but Mbappe hit his shot over the goal.)
“There’s a massive difference between us and PSG," said Marsch, "but the fact that we almost made it says a lot. We need to trust this young squad.”
While PSG had a big edge in possession, it struggled with Leipzig's high pressure and was outshot, 18-12. But the French club, which was missing injured Neymar, was let off the hook by Adams' turnover.
"After taking the lead," Marsch added, "we were in a good position but made a bad mistake. Messi and Mbappe don't need much time or space to score."
He said there were a lot of positives to take away from the game:
"We were brave and played well out of possession. We created a lot of chances and were also dangerous at set pieces. However, we’ve got our backs against the wall here, it will be difficult. We need to make fewer mistakes in the upcoming games."
Photo by Jean Catuffe/DPPI/Icon Sportswire